Friday, January 31, 2014

Questions my media friends need to be asking

President Obama -- You've often called education, "the civil rights issue of our time." Where do you stand on Civil Rights Movement hero James Meredith's call for an American Child’s Education Bill of Rights?

IFT & IEA leaders join in applause for passage of SB7
NEA President Dennis Van Roekel -- You're standing up with Colorado teachers in fighting back against SB191, a bill which makes teacher evaluations based mainly of student test scores and has led to the firing of 100 teachers without due process.

But when nearly identical legislation in the form of SB7 was passed in Illiinois, again with support from Dems who took Stand For Children money, you along with IEA Pres. Ken Swanson, hailed its passage as a national model of collaboration. Explain please?

Barbara Byrd-Bennett -- How's your threats and intimidation strategy against parents and students working for you?

Mike Madigan -- How can you reconcile your latest $1.5 billion gift to the corporations with your support for cutting the pensions of state retirees?

Donnita Travis -- We understand that God revealed his vision to you for starting the By Your Hand Club. Did he [she] also advise you to apply for your By Your Hand Charter School?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

An American Child's Bill of Rights

James Meredith confronted by hostile, racist mob as he tries to enter the Univ. of Mississippi in 1962.
Billions of dollars now spent on standardized testing and “so-called education reforms” can be better spent to help children. -- James Meredith
I'm always taken aback when corporate-style school "reformers", from Ed Sec. Duncan to voucher proponents and even school re-segregationists, claim they are all acting in the name of "civil rights".

I was even grateful when Teach For America (TFA) leader Stevona Elem Rogers stated frankly, back in March, that, "as an organization we are a lot of things for better or worse, but a 'Civil Rights Movement' is not one of them."

Now, a bona fide civil rights hero, James Meredith has once again come out swinging, calling modern school reform “catastrophically misguided and ineffective,” and launching what he calls the American Child’s Education Bill of Rights.

Valerie Strauss writes in yesterday's Washington Post:

Meredith, who now drives his grandchildren to public school in Jackson, Miss., every day said:
“We are losing millions of our children to inferior schools and catastrophically misguided and ineffective so-called education reforms. Our schools are being destroyed by politics, profit, greed and lies,” he adds. “Instead of evidence-based practices, money has become the engine of education policy, and our schools are being hijacked by politicians, non-educators and for-profit operators. Parents, teachers, citizens and community elders must arm ourselves with the best evidence and take back control of our children’s public education before it is too late. We all must work together to improve our public schools, not on the basis of profit or politics, but on the basis of evidence, and on the basis of love for America’s children.”
Here's his 12-point declaration of obligations that he says the nation owes every public school child. I have some small issues with the language in points 11 and 12, but overall, this is a fine document that should be reproduced and circulate widely.

The American Child’s Education Bill of Rights

Every American public school child has the right to:

1.  Experienced Teachers: A school run and staffed by fully qualified professional educators and teachers; a lead classroom teacher with a minimum of a masters degree in education and three years classroom experience; a school where computer products are never used to replace teachers; and a school the leaders of society would send their own children to.

2.  Equity of Resources: A nation that sends many of its most experienced and effective teachers to help its highest-poverty and highest-needs students; strives to deliver educational equity of resources to all students; and strives to reduce the harm done to children by poverty and segregation.

3.  Involved Parents: A school that strongly encourages and helps parents to: be directly involved in their children’s education; support their children with healthy eating and daily physical activity; disconnect their children from TV and video games and read with them on a daily basis; and a school that regularly invites parents to take part in school activities.

4.  Quality Learning: A nation where educators and officials collaborate to identify the best evidence-based practices; a nation that rigorously tests classroom products and reforms before spending billions of dollars of taxpayer funds on them, including testing them versus smaller class sizes and more experienced teachers; a nation that that does not spend billions of taxpayer dollars on excessive, unreliable and low-quality standardized tests that displace and damage authentic learning; and an education with an absolute minimum of standardized tests and a maximum of high-quality, teacher-designed evaluations of student learning and progress.

5.  Effective Teachers: A school where teachers are evaluated through fair and aggressive professional peer review, not unreliable standardized test data; and a school where under-performing teachers are coached, mentored and supported, and when necessary fired, through a process of professional review and transparent, timely due process.

6.  Personalized Instruction: A school with small class sizes, similar to those enjoyed by the children of political and business leaders, so all students can receive a truly differentiated and personalized instruction, with regular, close feedback from their teachers.

7.  Full Curriculum and Services: A school system that provides universal pre-K; a strong early education based on research fundamentals, correct developmental milestones and educational play; a rich curriculum including the arts, civics, literature, history, science, field trips, and music; fully funded, effective and inclusive special education that strives to intervene early and prevent problems; and if necessary, wraparound social services and a free, healthy breakfast and lunch.

8.  Transparency: A school where records of every dollar of taxpayer money spent are available for public inspection; where personally identifiable student information is not shared with outside parties without express parental consent; where parents and teachers are involved in school management and policy; and where core public school functions are not sold off to for-profit operators.

9.  Respect for Children and Teachers: A nation that respects teachers as well as it respects other elite professions; and considers every child’s physical, mental and emotional health, happiness and well-being as critical factors for school behavior, academic achievement and national progress.

10.  Safety, Freedom and Challenge: A school and a classroom that are safe, comfortable, exciting, happy and well-disciplined; with regular quiet time and play time in the early grades; regular breaks through the school day; daily physical education and recess periods; a healthy, developmentally-appropriate and evidence-based after-school workload; and an atmosphere of low chronic stress and high productive challenge, where children are free to be children as they learn, and children are free to fail in the pursuit of success.

11.  Reform Through Rigor and Accountability: A nation that uses rigor, accountability and transparency when it comes to education reform; where any proposed major education reforms must be tested first, and based on hard evidence, independently verified, before being widely adopted and funded by taxpayers.

12.  A 21st Century Education: A school and a nation where children and teachers are supported, cherished and challenged, and where teachers are left alone to the maximum extent possible by politicians and bureaucrats to do their jobs – - which is to prepare children for life, citizenship, and careers with true 21st century skills: not by drilling them for standardized tests or forcing a culture of stress, overwork and fear upon them, but by helping them fall in love with authentic learning for the rest of their lives, inspiring them with joy, fun, passion, diligence, critical thinking and collaboration, new discoveries and excitement, and having the highest academic expectations of them.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Stephanie Gadlin  Chicago Teachers Union  -- 312/329-6250 

January 29, 2014

CHICAGO - In today’s State of the State address, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn made multiple references to “getting the job done” and also claimed to have ended the culture of instability that existed in Illinois government. He highlighted the strides that the state has made in working with women and minority-owned businesses. The problem is that his claims about the benefits of education reform and championing an agreement on comprehensive pension reform don’t meet any of these tests.
Education reform as done in Illinois promotes instability and privatization, disproportionately and negatively impacts women and people of color, and makes it difficult for parents and educators to “get the job done.” The pension reform the governor cited as the “tallest task of all” is currently being challenged in Illinois Circuit Court by the We Are One Illinois coalition of labor unions for violating the pension clause of the Illinois Constitution, which states that a public pension is a contract that the State of Illinois cannot diminish or impair.
We stand in support with the teacher and service unions throughout the state who filed suit yesterday, as well as the more than 20 individual retirees named as plaintiffs. As we prepare to aggressively defend our own public pensions here in Chicago, we stand up for some of the most important people in our community—those who have already served, paid a great debt to the people of our city and state and have paid into their pension systems only to be told they won’t get the money they deserve.
“There are many ways to solve the state’s economic problems, but these legislators insist on doing it on the backs of its workers by ignoring the pension heist and not taking into consideration the consequences to our communities,” said CTU President Karen GJ Lewis. “They’re destroying the morale of the people who are actually doing the work and threating the security of those who have already served. We call on the governor to end this pension heist.”
Teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians will join other municipal workers in a mass pension rally in Springfield on February 19. For more information visit

Rahm sputters through defense of new charters

The Mayor sounds downright goofy as he tries to defend his hand-picked school board's vote to open new charter schools in the vicinity of the 50 schools they closed.

From the Tribune:
“That’s not how this city in the past has looked at it, and in the future, and this is in areas primarily, not exclusively, where there’s overcrowding, which we have also a challenge,” said Emanuel, before bringing up his frequent argument that charter schools are about giving parents more choices.
What'd he say? Is he channeling his predecessor, Mayor Malaprop?

As long as they had him jabbering, I wonder why the reporters didn't ask him to justify the newly-approved Moody Bible Institute-connected charter, opening within a mile of four schools closed for "underutilization" on the west side? I'd like to hear him babble his way through that explanation.

Or how about, "Hey Rahm, what do you think about the State Board's approval of more Concept Charters tied to reclusive Turkish billionaire cleric, Fethullah Gulen, even after your own board rejected their proposal?"

From DNAInfo: 
The "Gulen Movement" has a special focus on establishing charter schools, which act as conduits to get Gulen loyalists from Turkey into America through work visas, according to researcher Sharon Higgins. 
"The whole thing is filled with international intrigue ... and it just so happens that it's been placed in my backyard," said Bill Drew, a McKinley Park activist who hosted a broadcast of a webinar on Concept Schools and other similarly-run charter schools throughout the country.
According to the Sun-Times, powerful Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan took four trips to Turkey as a guest of the Niagara Foundation and the Turkish American Chamber of Commerce.  Madigan paid for his travel but meals and hotels were covered by those two groups, the newspaper reported. Those ties have created suspicion about political influence in the highly charged debate over charter schools in Illinois.
Please reporters. Get him on record as we head for 2015.

Obama calls for even more testing madness

The maddening Race To The Top continues

Not much for educators to get excited about in last night's speech. It's that time again when Dems give us a slight head-fake to the left-center to keep their base in line. I did like the focus on income inequality and the promise to raise the minimum wage for fed-contracted workers by executive order. That alone has the Republican wing-nuts in a frenzy. They're already crying "coup d'etat" over Obama's tepid moves. I'm also glad about his shift towards diplomacy, rather than saber-rattling on Iran and Syria, but fear it's like promises to end the war in Afghanistan -- lots of talk, lots of wavering, more winks to the generals and the M/I Complex.

I also liked his call for universal pre-K for all 4-year-olds. But there's little chance of that, or much else positive (gun control, immigration reform, etc...) going anywhere with this Congress. 

You write the caption for this one. (NYT photo)
The worst of it was Obama's call for even more standardized testing -- an obvious reassuring bone thrown to his Common Core pals at Pearson, N.Y. Gov. Cuomo, and  the state’s education commissioner, John King who's facing a rank-and-file teacher revolt against CC in N.Y.. That could be the start of something big and even has AFT and NEA leaders nervous. 

N.Y. Times reports
Mr. Obama gave tacit credit to the Race to the Top grant program for helping states “raise expectations and performance.” In exchange for grant funds, states agreed to put in place evaluation systems that grade teachers in part on how students score on standardized reading and math tests, and to adopt “college and career-ready” standards. Many states used the Common Core state standards to meet that requirement, and their roll-out has been very controversial, with critics on the right claiming they were forced on states by the administration and critics on the left objecting to a renewed emphasis on testing.
AFT's Randi Weingarten is lagging behind her own membership as she flips from outright support for CC to "de-linking" Common Core from testing. My brother, as he's wont to do,  turned my comments on that piece of fantasy into art. 

Is that really supposed to be me? I'm much younger than that.

NEA's Van Roekel is even worse. He's been the loudest supporter for Common Core and even claimed secret internal polls showing that his membership overwhelming supported Common Core.
“Our members support the Common Core State Standards because they are the right thing to do for our students and they embrace the promise of the standards: that all students will have access to the critical thinking and creative skills they need to succeed, regardless of where they live.
Now he's trying to quell the revolt, saying CC standards are fine -- just "being implemented wrong".

Pension fight moves to the courts

Got this notice yesterday from my union:
Pension lawsuit filed – Today AFSCME and our partners in the We Are One Illinois union coalition, along with a group of active and retired public employees, filed suit in Sangamon County Circuit Court to overturn pension-slashing Senate Bill 1 (Public Act 98-599), which cuts the pension benefits of all active and retired employees in SERS, SURS and TRS. Defendants in the suit are the state’s constitutional officers, the state retirement systems and their boards. Our suit makes clear that pension theft is not only unfair, it’s clearly unconstitutional. 
Go for it. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Chicago's newest church-affiliated charter school

School planner, Donnita Travis
Sometimes even cynical me can be found gasping at the audacity of Chicago's charter school hustlers. My latest gasp came after reading about the newest church-affiliated charter approved by the mayor's hand-picked school board last week, targeted for the Austin neighborhood on Chicago's west side.

It's called By The Hand Charter School, situated within the By The Hand Club for Kids and created by a group associated with the Moody Bible Institute. The school plan grew out of the church's faith-based after-school program in 2012 started by the club's politically-connected Exec. Director Donnita Travis.

Travis is leading the planning team for the new charter. She's no educator but is the partner in a Chicago advertising agency who claims that, "God revealed the vision for By The Hand Club For Kids" to her." I suppose the Lord also told her to start a publicly-funded, privately-run charter school and instructed the Board to approve it. Hallelujah!

Community groups  protests BTH Charter
Remember when CEO Byrd-Bennett told us that no new charters would be created to replace closed neighborhood schools for the next five years? The Moody Church-associated charter will be situated within a mile of four closed Austin neighborhood schools — Francis Scott Key, Louis Armstrong, Horatio May and Robert Emmet elementary schools.

I suppose board members felt that since they had given more charters to Concept Charter Schools, which are part of a large network of schools established by exiled Turkish former imam Fethullah Gulen, it would be only fair to turn one over to the Moody Church.

This seems to be a growing trend nationally. Trend-setting Texas, for example, now has the group Responsive Education Solutions teaching creationism on more than 65 of its charter campuses in Texas, Arkansas, and Indiana, with 20 more Texas campuses opening in 2014.


Monday, January 27, 2014

Selling us junk

“They are saying this is choice, yet they are not advertising any public schools at all,” said protester Rousemary Vega. “That doesn’t give any parents choice.” -- NBC 5 Chicago

Rahm and Byrd-Bennett have turned into junk salesmen. Their New Schools Expo was little more than a flea market of mostly inferior goods being sold to desperate shoppers driven to the fair by the debasement and threats of closure of their neighborhood schools.

(WBEZ/Linda Litton)
WBEZ reporter Linda Lutton visited the Expo and describes what she found:
A high-profile Chicago schools fair today is supposed to show off quality new schools, many of them charters...Schools set up tables with photos and marketing materials to try to entice students to enroll. Principals and teachers offer freebies like candy or balloons to kids...
But a WBEZ analysis of the more than 100 new schools featured at the expo this year shows 34 percent of them are rated Level 3 by the district, the lowest grade given. Schools receiving the designation include campuses run by some of the largest charter networks in the city, including UNO and the Chicago International Charter School. This is the first year the district has graded charters on the same scale as traditional schools. In recent years, the district has closed neighborhood schools rated Level 3, citing poor performance.
ABC News reports:
Flyer handed out to parents by protesters
Some braved the cold and handed out flyers to parents coming into the expo to try and urge them to know the facts [See Ellen Gradman's comments below]. The moms argue that while CPS' school budget was slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars, and under-used schools were closed down, charter school funding is on the rise and more schools are opening. They don't think the scale is very balanced. 
BTW, the cost for this great charter marketing scam is no less than $30 million funneled through New Schools for Chicago, formerly the Renaissance Schools Fund (the word Renaissance was banned from use down on Clark St. after the collapse of the Daley/Duncan fiasco formerly known as Renaissance 2010).

Think what that money could mean to resource-starved community public schools, how many highly-skilled teachers or librarian could have been rehired or arts programs restored.


For some reason, I read this as School Choke Week.
Maine's Republican Governor Paul LePage
“If you want a good education, go to private schools. If you can’t afford it, tough luck. You can go to the public school.” -- NPQ, Republican Gubernatorial Campaigns Play the Charter School Card
George Will 

His latest column attacks Obama's calls for expanded early childhood education, an increase in the minimum wage, and the government's subsidies for college tuition.
 Even “high-quality” universal preschool would not measurably reduce inequality. It would, however, efficiently convey funds from the federal treasury to a new cohort of unionized teachers, then through union dues to Democratic candidates. -- Washington Post
Sarah Simmons confronted the mayor
While [Mayor Emanuel] was uttering platitudes about Martin Luther King ... I simply asked him how Dr. King was honored by closing 50 public schools in black and brown neighborhoods, and then opening 31 privatized schools. -- Chicagoist: Activist Who Confronted Mayor Emanuel On School Closings
New Orleans Time-Picayune columnist, Jarvis DeBerry 
Dear students of John McDonogh High School:  It is with heavy hearts that we, the residents of New Orleans, write you this letter informing you that we find it impossible to educate you. We’re giving up on our stated goal of preparing you for a future that requires your literacy, your facility with numbers and critical thinking skills. You have our regrets. -- Diane Ravitch Blog

Friday, January 24, 2014

Notes from the bottom of the barrel

Note to Cong. Eric Cantor -- Hope you are enjoying your junket to Davos and relaxing after working so hard to cut our unemployment benefits. Must be great skiing this time of year. But next time you and Rory grab some coffee over at the Kongress, be sure not to leave the receipt on the table.  Folks back in Virginia might get pissed. You don't want to wind up like your pal, Bob.

Note to Dinesh D'Souza -- You probably shouldn't have Tweeted that racist remark about Obama and Trayvon Martin. Shit like that sometimes comes back to haunt you.

Note to Arne Duncan -- Careful what you write about PISA test scores representing "a national failure". Remember, it's your Race To The Top and we're about 6 years into it. Readers may put 2 and 2 together.

Note to self -- Self, be sure and register today for the upcoming NPE Conference in Austin. Anthony Cody says they're filling up fast and only a few rooms left at conference rate. Remember, your Movement Building panel starts at 11:15 on Saturday, March 1.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Charter vote another reason why we need an elected school board and a new mayor

A group of supporters for Communities United for Quality Education protest in opposition of new charter schools, outside the Chicago Public Schools headquarters on Wednesday. 
It wasn't as if anyone doubted how yesterday's vote on charter school expansion would go. Despite the claim by one board member that the decision was a "difficult one," Rahm's hand-picked CPS board rarely if ever has a dissenting vote and the vote is always predictable. This time, there was only a token no-vote from board member Carlos Azcoitia on a few of the charter proposals.

All the community hearings, the protests outside, the passionate speeches by parents, students and teachers --- none of that means anything once the Mayor instructs his board members how to vote (they rarely need any instruction). The Board doesn't represent the public and aren't accountable to the public. And therein lies the problem with mayoral control of the schools. Reason # 837 why we need an elected school board and a new mayor.

Ald. Sposato speaks out against charter expansion
It's true that the Board voted only to approve 7 out of 17 charter school applications. But this is typical Rahm, isn't it? He'll threaten to close 200 neighborhood schools, for example, and then pull back and "only" close 50 at one time, giving the appearance of reasonableness and compromise. Hearings and community meetings are just a tactic for the mayor. And they are always carefully controlled -- none more so than his hearings on charter expansion. which he placed under the control of the pro-charter group Stand For Children.

As the Reader's Ben Joravsky points out,
CPS officials told the members of these councils that discussions should be limited to the specifics of the new charter proposals. They were not—let me repeat, not—permitted to talk about the larger issue of whether we should create any charters at all.
In a union press release, CTU President Karen Lewis, sounding like a modern-day John Dewey, summed it up nicely.
“Freedom to choose is at the bedrock of our society. But choice should be based on fact and data. What is being presented is a false choice. Knowledge is the basis for real choice. What parents and the public are being presented with is a pre-determined path that leads to the undermining of our neighborhood schools and the privatization of public education.”
Chicago's rapidly expanding network of privately-run charter schools has little in common with the original charters that were teacher-led and community-based. They have instead become a centerpiece of urban gentrification, anti-teacher and anti-union to the core, and mired in corruption and patronage, or what Lewis describes as "the seamy underbelly of the charter movement."


Just what would you have to do to have your charter proposal rejected by this charter-lovin' board? Just ask the only group of teachers who proposed a "teacher-led, progressive" school called Be the Change. The proposal was created by teachers from the University of Chicago's Urban Teacher Education Program and offered an alternative to the traditional classroom with a curriculum focusing on the “academic, intellectual, artistic, social, emotional, and civic growth of each student.” The school would center on the concept of “interdisciplinary learning,” a concept allowing students to explore a theme through the lens of various subjects.

The school's design team hoped to open a K-8 school within the Bridgeport Art Center, a mixed-use, five-story former warehouse along the banks of Bubbly Creek — putting it squarely within a zone highlighted by CPS where more seats are needed to relieve overcrowding.

I can almost hear board members (except for Azcoitia) gagging as they read this one. The sad thing is that the teachers felt they had to become a charter in order to teach in a progressive, teacher-led school.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Braving sub-zero temps to stop the charter invasion

At last night's vigil
A SmallTalk Salute goes out to the dozens of protesters who demonstrated their commitment last night by holding an all-night vigil and sleeping out in sub-zero temps, outside CPS headquarters. They, along with hundreds of others, will pack today's board meeting to try and stop Rahm's hand pick board's vote for further charter expansion.

Another goes out to Wisconsin high school social studies teacher Al Levie, one of three recipients of a Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award. During a celebration honoring the late civil rights leader, Al refused to accept the award from Rep. Paul Ryan, saying, “I can’t in good conscience accept this award, as a humanitarian, Paul Ryan stands for everything I don’t believe in.”

After Ryan spoke, Levie criticized the congressman’s policies before being walked off the stage. Levie had earlier stated that he would like to see collective bargaining restored in Wisconsin, fair immigration reform and a fair tax system among other suggestions.
“Paul Ryan had no business at a Martin Luther King event, it’s totally hypocritical. On the one hand he votes to slash health care, while on the other hand, King dedicated his life and he died for it — for people to have adequate healthcare, to have adequate jobs.”
And a third salute goes out to  Ald. Nick Sposato (36th), and members of the City Council's Progressive Caucus who led an attempt to delay the board vote last week, but had their efforts were derailed. Sposato called it, saying that CPS was playing "bull---- games" with its capacity figures, and pointed to how there are four CPS high schools already within a mile and a half of the proposed Noble site.  Community resistance has focused on a new Noble Charter high school set for 5357 W. Grand Ave., across the street from Prosser Career Academy.

An investigation by the parent group Raise Your Hand has discovered that 47% of CPS charter and contract schools have student populations below the CPS threshold for ideal enrollment. This equates to 50 schools with nearly 11,000 seats sitting empty. The analysis also reveals a decline in overall CPS enrollment of 3,000 students this academic year. Despite this drop, the Chicago Board of Education could approve as many as 31 new charters over the next two years.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Prosser community resists charter invasion

Protest at the site of new Noble Charter school across the street from Prosser High School. 
The community knows the game may be rigged against them. The pro-forma community meetings are a sham with the process being run and controlled by a corporate-funded pro-charter group, Stand For Children. But in the face of all this, school communities and parent groups are determined to roll back the charter invasion and defend their public schools.

The Chicago Tribune reports:
The latest round of charter school expansion in Chicago has been met with a long string of protests by parents and community leaders who question Chicago Public Schools' claims that it is pushing charters primarily for neighborhoods where classrooms are overcrowded.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Board of Education is set to consider 17 new charter campuses. Chicago Public Schools officials won't make public their recommendations on the proposals until the board meeting, district spokesman Joel Hood said. Earlier, 22 new charter proposals were submitted, but charter operators withdrew some of them.
On Monday, a coalition of anti-charter community groups called Communities United for Quality Education protested outside the site of a new charter school proposed by the Noble Network of Charter Schools, a favorite of Mayor Rahm Emanuel's that operates 14 high schools across the city, including one named after his pal, Bruce Rauner.

The proposed school is across the street from Prosser High School on the Northwest Side, and protesters fear the Noble campus would lead to an enrollment decline at the district-run school.
"This is just another indication that the mayor and nonelected school board have an aggressive agenda for charter expansion to a point that CPS will create rationales like overcrowding relief that they will then ignore a few months later," said Demian Kogan of the Albany Park Neighborhood Council. "It's clear they just threw out a rationale that they didn't care to follow."
Kogan's group did a cost analysis that indicates district start-up costs for 17 charter schools would be $21 million next year.

SOUTH SIDE CPS MOM posts her list of 9 Things The Mayor Doesn't Want You to Know About Charter Expansion in Chicago.
What if we stopped believing what we're told about charters? What would happen if CPS parents stopped buying the status quo and started asking questions instead? What if everybody knew the things that Rahm Emanuel doesn't really want you to know?
It's a pretty good list. Check it out.

Another community protest is scheduled this afternoon in the Austin community, organized by Action Now.

More from the 'bottom of the barrel'

While teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel and are disproportionately teaching students from disadvantaged backgrounds, Duncan said, teachers in South Korea are selected from the top of the class and are rewarded for working with low-income students. -- U.S. News
In fairness to Duncan, he didn't actually use the words "bottom of the barrel". He said that a significant proportion of new teachers come from "the from the bottom third of their college class." Same difference as far as I can tell.

Duncan shares his outlook on teaching with those at the Council on Foreign Relations or at the World Bank, who view public education primarily in the context of global economic and military competition. For Duncan, the role of schools is to provide the "human capital" for American corporations and the military industrial complex. He lays it all out in his 2011 remarks to the World Bank ("Improving Human Capital in a Competitive World—Education Reform in the United States”).
In many respects, our vision of reform has a great deal in common with the World Bank’s forthcoming Education Strategy for 2020. We share your commitment to results—to accelerating the acquisition of skills and knowledge. We share your commitment to cradle-to-career reform for students. 
I love your credo “Invest early. Invest smartly. Invest for all.” 
In class last night, many of my grad students expressed their disappointment, dismay, anger over Duncan's latest debasement of the teaching profession. One compared it to the old adage, "those who can't do, teach."

I'm not sure about the origins of that one. It supposedly comes from George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman.
Bob: I'm so discouraged. My writing teacher told me my novel is hopeless. Jane: Don't listen to her, Bob. Remember: those who can, do; those who can't, teach.
Many of us can remember the pain inflicted by a discouraging teacher, parent or friend who told us to give up on a dream (mine was playing in the major leagues). But what could be more discouraging to students with dreams of becoming a teacher one day, than the remarks by the Sec. of Education?

I asked my students, who I would match up intellectually with Duncan or any of his fellow Harvard grads, isn't teaching "doing"?

The students read a N.Y Times Op-Ed piece on John Dewey's vision of learning, "Learning as Freedom" by Michael Roth, who asks,
Who wants to attend school to learn to be “human capital”? Who aspires for their children to become economic or military resources? Dewey had a different vision.
Perhaps we need to restate Shaw's adage this way:
Those who can't teach become sideline critics, corporat reformers, or D.O.E. bureaucrats.

Monday, January 20, 2014


Amiri Baraka's son Ras, delivers his eulogy (Video).
Ras Baraka 
"Every nurse that would come in the room he said, 'Hey, my son is running for mayor. He came to the hospital with a bag of (political) literature." --
Michael Eric Dyson 
We’ve deliberately dismembered him [Dr. Martin Luther King] through manipulation of his memory. And those of us who have failed to see his radical challenge, in deference to a vision of King that is one of a universalist, that everybody can attach to — which was true, of course — but that wasn’t the full story. -- Salon, How we get Dr. King Wrong
Obama's NSA Speech
Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast, unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers, and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes. In fact, even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. And in the 1960s, government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. -- NY Times 
Rev. James Meeks
Meeks said he’d never heard of Rauner before Eden Martin, President of the Civic Committee, called on Rauner’s behalf about five years ago to request a meeting. So he Googled the name. “When I saw how much money he was worth, I said, ‘Sure, let the guy come on,’” laughed Meeks. -- Sun-Times
Joanne Barkan's latest’s both perverse and predictable that Philanthropy magazine titled its spring 2013 cover story “They Shall Overcome...” Philanthro-ed-reformers have been chanting the mantra “Education is the civil rights issue of our time” for years, and they’ve appointed themselves leaders of the reform movement. The largest stakeholders in public education—students, educators, and parents—have no role to play except as recipients of donor-designed reforms. When they question the charitable largesse, they become part of the opposition that the philanthropists shall overcome. They shall overcome, not we. Solidarity doesn’t figure in. -- We They Shall Overcome

Sunday, January 19, 2014


Network for Public Education 2014 National Conference 

Robin Hiller | Executive Director | | (520) 668-4634


January 19, 2014

The Network for Public Education has announced a national gathering of public education activists. The organization’s first National Conference will take place at The Thompson Conference Center at the University of Texas at Austin on March 1 & 2, 2014 - the Saturday and Sunday before SXSWedu. The conference will feature more than twenty panels and workshops, keynote speakers, and networking opportunities for education advocates from across the United States.

The NPE 2014 National Conference will feature a keynote address by education historian and best-selling author (and NPE President) Diane Ravitch. Chicago Teachers Union President, Karen Lewis and Texas school district Superintendent John Kuhn will deliver a joint conference address. A panel addressing the Common Core will feature American Federation of Teachers President, Randi Weingarten, blogger and education activist Anthony Cody, writer and researcher, Mercedes Schneider, teacher and blogger Jose Luis Vilson, Chicago teacher Paul Horton, and early-childhood education expert Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin.
The Network for Public Education was formed by Ravitch in 2013 and has become a prominent voice in the education reform debate. During the November 2013 elections, NPE rallied support for successful school board candidates in Bridgeport, CT, Seattle and Atlanta. The 2014 National Conference will be an opportunity for NPE to coordinate its network of education activists from across the United States in preparation for the 2014 elections.
“We are bringing together allies from around the country who really know what is happening on the ground in their own states and communities. One of our main goals in forming our network was to create a means to support candidates willing to defend public education,” said Anthony Cody, an NPE co-founder with Ravitch. “By gathering together, we hope to build real momentum, making 2014 the year we turn the tide in the fight for our schools.”
The NPE Conference will bring together leading activists in education from across the country and will feature some of the nation's most dynamic school administrators, such as Montgomery County Superintendent Joshua Starr, and New York's Principal of the Year Carol Burris. Parent activists will include Leonie Haimson of New York, Karran Harper Royal from New Orleans and Helen Gym of Philadelphia. Teachers will be well represented, with panels that include Michelle Gunderson and Xian Barrett of Chicago, Kipp Dawson of Pittsburgh, and Phyllis Bush of Indiana. A panel on "Framing Our Message" will include Jeff Bryant, Sabrina Stevens and Bertis Downs. Bob Schaeffer of FairTest will be joined by the leader of the Seattle MAP test boycott, Jesse Hagopian in discussing the movement to push back high stakes tests. Student activists will be well represented as well, with leaders from the Providence Student Union, and Stephanie Rivera and Hannah Nguyen, founders of Students United for Public Education. This year the movement to opt out of high stakes tests is picking up steam and United Opt Out co-founder Peggy Robertson will share UOO’s latest plans. Professors Sonya Horsford, Paul Thomas, and Julian Vasquez Heilig will discuss the latest research that sheds light on which reforms are truly working to serve our students, and Tim Slekar will discuss the role and future of teacher education. Investigative journalists Jason Stanford, Joanne Barkan and Mercedes Schneider will share ideas and tips from their work uncovering the truth about corporate education reform and destructive philanthropy. Veteran educators Deborah Meier and Mike Klonsky bring decades of experience as activists to panels on organizing resistance and building movements. University of Texas scholars Angela Valenzuela and Deb Palmer will discuss issues related to English Language Learners and high stakes testing. Recently elected school board candidate Sue Peters will be there to share lessons from her victory against well-financed corporate reformers in Seattle.
On her popular blog, NPE President, Diane Ravitch remarked on the importance of coming together for the purpose of strengthening our education system.
“Our movement demands a positive agenda for change based on love of learning, respect for educators, and dedication to the healthy development of children as good people,” Ravitch said. “We hope you will be there and join us as we review the status and condition of our movement to reclaim public education and decide what we should do to grow stronger in the future.” 

For more information about the Network for Public Education 2014 National Conference, go to Registration is currently open and the website contains information about the speakers, panels, accommodations and travel.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Despite next week's sham hearings, new CPS charters a done deal

This morning I received this email from my former fellow Prosser coach, Jeff Bates.


What do you think?
I'm sure you are aware of the RFPs for Intrinsic and Noble Charter Schools being considered by CPS at the upcoming Board meeting on January 22nd. 
Jeff Bates pics
On January 6th the demolition fences were put up around the proposed site of the New Noble School, directly across the street corner from Prosser Career Academy HIgh School (1,500 student enrollment) and within blocks of 6 other elementary schools with over 4,000 students enrolled-Hanson Park, Prieto, Northwest Middle, Belmont Cragin, and Christopher House. Definitely a SAFETY and traffic concern to residents, parents, students, and the Commissioner at Area 25 Police Headquarters, two blocks away.
Construction begins
The LSCs at the existing schools were not invited to nor made aware of the Noble sponsored Community outreach meetings. Residents of the community North of Grand we're not informed of the project as we'll. Prosser lost $1.2 million in budget cuts this past summer. There are 4 High Schools within 1.5 miles- North Grand, Steinmetz, Kelvyn Park, and Foreman. Not one is overcrowded and they have endured budget cuts. Very Interesting to say the least. On a recent visit- "We are the  General Contractors- tearing the building down. They are putting up a new charter school"- rep from Norcon shared on January 10, 2014---BEFORE BOARD APPROVAL OF RFP January 22nd. Proper procedure and Protocol? Or business as usual with the haves vs the have-nots?
Over 20 years of educating, motivating, and inspiring students to do their best and follow the proper procedures means little when the POWERS that be are not kept to the same standard.
Please share with all interested in Our Children, Our Schools, Our Communities, Our City, and Our WORLD.

 Jeffrey S. Bates
My response:
Of course it's a done deal (See this morning's S-T and my blog). Doesn't mean it can't be stopped. Still worth putting up a fight to make it difficult for them. Also to mobilize the community for next election.


Quote from CPS IG Jim Sullivan -- "The system has incentivized how performance is evaluated based on data, and much of that data is created and can be manipulated at the school level."  

Rahm & charter landlord Jenkins
I'm shocked, just shocked to hear that Rahm's pals are the landlords for the new proposed charter schools.
The Rev. Charles Jenkins, its pastor, touts on his church’s website how he “filled a key role” on Emanuel’s transition team when the mayor was elected in 2011. Jenkins gave the invocation at Emanuel’s swearing-in. He is an Emanuel appointee to the City Colleges of Chicago board and a board member of the private group New Schools for Chicago, which helps fund new charter schools.

How bad does Quinn have to be to offend AFL-CIO leaders? Gov. not only signed unconstitutional pension-busting bill, he bragged, "I was born for this."
And the nod for Quinn should put to rest the constant media speculation that all of organized labor is angry with him - although you gotta figure that AFSCME and the teachers weren’t too pleased with this move. -- Rich Miller, Capital Fax
They not only endorsed Quinn, they backed Republican  Judy Baar-Topinka for state comptroller. Topinka supported the pension-busting bill. A slap in the face to Sheila Simon who broke with Quinn and opposed the pension deal.

 As might be expected, he celebrated their [charter schools] high test scores, and I responded that they get those scores by excluding students with serious disabilities and English language learners, as well as pushing out those whose scores are not good enough. Surprisingly, he didn’t disagree. His reaction: so what? “They are not my problem. Charters exist to save those few who can be saved, not to serve all kinds of kids.” My response: What should our society do about the kids your charters don’t want? His response: I don’t know and I don’t care. They are not my problem. -- Diane Ravitch's Blog

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The view from the 'bottom of the academic barrel'

Fred Klonsky's view of our Ed Sec.
Here's how things are looking from down here at the bottom of the academic barrel.

For one thing, there seems to be lots of energy and activity on the organizational front. The Network For Public Education is holding a national meeting in Austin, March 1-2. CTU Pres. Karen Lewis and Supt. John Kuhn, (Perrin-Whitt Independent School District in Texas) are the keynoters. It's probably worth the trip just to hear these two powerhouse speakers. The inclusion of AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten as a speaker has caused a stir. But I'm happy to see her there. I just got done having a scuffle with her on Twitter about the union's past wavering on the issue of teacher evaluation and hope dialogue continues.

I'm wondering about the purpose of holding another national conference and forming yet another national organization. I'm also wondering about who and what issues are going to be left in and who is left out of the process and how to keep the whole thing from blowing up in sectarian warfare?

But NPE staffer Anthony Cody tells me that NPE founder and leader, Diane Ravitch wants to build an alternative to corporate-reform groups like Stand For Children and others who have been using big corporate and foundation dollars to back anti-union, pro-privatization candidates in school board and municipal elections. This new group, I'm told, will organize political support to progressive and anti-privatization candidates running for office around the country. Not a bad idea.

One of the things missing from a cursory look at the agenda is any mention of so-called "pension reform" which is a central piece in the corporate reformers assault on teachers, all public employees and their unions. I hope this gets straightened out before March.

I've been asked to organize a panel on Movement Building and I will. I'll bring in a few local Texas organizers and union activists to help me out. Hope to see you there. Austin's one of my favorite places.

Then comes announcements that two other new organizations are forming, with similar purposes. The first, right here in Chicago by the CTU is seen as an Independent Political Organization (IPO). This has been sorely missing in the city as a vehicle to organize against the power of the Rahm/Madigan Machine in the upcoming elections.

The second, Integrity in Education, was formed in December out in Colorado and is led by teacher, writer, activist Sabrina Stevens. Sabrina, who I greatly admire, is heavily quoted in Josh Eidelson's excellent piece in, The influence of Michelle Rhee and Chris Christie: Education reformers’ revolving door.

My skeptical half is muttering under breath, "Just what we need, some more new organizations" and humming that old Hank Williams Jr. tune, The Coalition to Ban Coalitions. My better half is excited about the prospects of growth, struggle and unity-building.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Another Duncan Doughnut

"Teachers in America often come from the bottom of the academic barrel..." -- Arne Duncan

Yes, he really said it, and despite his inevitable pull-back once his handlers get hold of him, he really means it. This Harvard jock, who never taught a day in his life, can't open his mouth, it seems,without demeaning teachers (or "white suburban moms" for that matter).

I'm not sure what the "academic barrel" is. I think he means the state universities and colleges of education, like the ones where I have taught for the past few decades, and where thousands of great teachers are produced under the tutelage of some of the country's greatest education professors and scholars.

To Duncan, the top of the "barrel" would probably mean the Ivy Leaguers like himself, who become the 5-week TFA wonders; the ones who, on average, flounder through their first 2 years in inner-city schools before fleeing for greener pastures.

Pension wars and Moore

Puerto Rican teachers strike: "No somos criminales, somos maestros." "We're not criminals."
The attacks on public worker pensions, especially teachers' pensions, has become a centerpiece of corporate reform strategy aimed at degrading the teaching profession, eroding public space and undermining union contracts. It's a response to the growing public-sector debt crisis that avoids taxing the corporate sector and puts the entire burden on the retired (or soon to be retired) public sector workers. But with it has come with growing resistance across the country and now in Puerto Rico. Since December 19, members of Puerto Rico's teachers union and their supporters have been protesting both inside the island's Senate chamber and outside its Capitol, including a 2-day strike, against the so-called "pension reform" legislation advocated by governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

Look who's defending Rauner

No surprise here. It's the Trib's Eric Zorn. He identifies with the Republican billionaire's clout problems.
I didn't have to play that game with my elder son, who easily tested into Payton in 2004, but I can't blame many of those who did. "Nothin' wrong" with asking for a favor, after all, when favors were going to be doled out anyway.
 Was it seemly for Bruce Rauner to then drop a quarter-million dollar donation on Payton Prep Initiative for Education in December 2009? Yes. Given the timing, not just seemly but generous, creditable and consistent with his charitable outreach to schools.
Does Rauner have anything to apologize for, other than dropping his "g's" to try to sound folksy? No. He didn't break the rules in place at the time and no one broke them on his behalf.
Has Ald. Joe Moore become a complete lap dog for the Mayor?

Yes he has. He ran as a progressive, but now has become an enemy of the teachers union and the leading Rahm apologist in the City Council. Moore argued Tuesday that City Hall spent $7.2 million on salt after the New Year’s Eve storm that preceded a polar plunge — and “wasted” tons of it — because it was trying to meet the “unrealistic” expectations of a demanding Chicago electorate. He may be right about the salt, but not about blaming Chicagoans' for their expectations. His was a conscious diversion from the real issue that has neighborhood folks so pissed off. While downtown and Boule Miche were plowed clean enough to eat off the streets, neighborhoods were barely touched. Dangerous potholes are everywhere in the neighborhoods. None downtown. It had nothing to do with salt. 

Congrats to ALEC, Brookings, Gates... on their Bunkum Awards 
“Congratulations, Brookings! You just won the Bunkum’s Grand Prize for shoddiest educational research for 2013.” -- NEPC

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

It's silly to pretend Common Core is not a curriculum

"The Common Core has become a rallying cry for fringe groups that claim it is a scheme for the federal government to usurp state and local control of what students learn. An op-ed in the New York Times called the Common Core "a radical curriculum." It is neither radical nor a curriculum." -- Arne Duncan
Well, Arne Duncan got it half-right. It's certainly not radical.

I half expect Duncan himself to slam me (call me "silly," a "suburban mom" or a "fringe group"?)  for writing this, but here goes.

Disinformation about the Common Core, coming straight from the D.O.E. and spread across a compliant media, includes the myths that standards are home-grown and that they are simply standards and NOT curriculum.

In an unusually long Huffington blog piece, ed  writer Joy Resmovitz reports:
Each state sets its own learning standards, and those get translated through thousands of districts and schools and teachers. The Core is supposed to unify this patchwork of efforts not only across states, but across the country. And contrary to popular belief, it's not a curriculum: School systems and teachers can choose their own instructional materials, as long as students know what the Core says they should know by year's end.
But curriculum is all about determining and deciding what's most worthwhile to teach and learn and how that teaching and learning takes place. What is most worthwhile to know and how and why it is to be taught? What literature will students be assigned? What textbooks, if any, will be purchased? Standards and assessment (testing) are certainly important parts of this complex and politicized curriculum landscape.

As we know, there are (and in a democratic society should be) divergent answers to these most fundamental curricular questions and hopefully, divergent voices, especially those of classroom teachers, providing those answers. But to pretend that there's this Great Wall separating standards from curriculum is absurd as every teacher and school administrator is finding out -- if they don't already know.

Resmovitz goes on in the very next paragraph, to contradict her and Duncan's "not curriculum" pronouncements.
Students will learn less content, but more in-depth, coherent and demanding content. In other words, students should know fewer things, but they should know them better. The Core encourages teachers to move away from memorization and to ask students to show their work. In math, it means emphasizing such things as learning fractions and fluency in arithmetic. In reading, it means more nonfiction texts -- recommendations range from historical speeches from Martin Luther King, Jr., and Winston Churchill to more instructional reads such as the Environmental Protection Agency's "Recommended Levels of Insulation" and FedViews, by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. 
Leaving aside for the moment, whether reading nonfictional texts is "more demanding" and "more in-depth" than reading Melville or Morrison, there's no denying that less fiction/more nonfiction texts is a curricular decision. And there's also little doubt that the massive testing regimen attached to CCCS drives curriculum decisions at the school level. And those tests, along with their aligned (possibly) textbooks, all come from the same tiny but powerful group of publishers, ie. Pearson and McGraw.

To imply, as Resmovitz does, that these decisions emerge locally, with no pressure to conform to corporate or D.O.E. political interests, is really silly. State supes may be able to change its name or even drop out of Common Core altogether (at great risk of losing federal funding), but Pearson's tests will still drive the curriculum.